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No hugs or handshakes: Pandemic complicates storm relief

Dislocated families are being put into hotel rooms rather than mass shelters to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Credit: AP
Ca'Loni Booth, 6, bangs away at what remains of the drum set in the slab that was James Hill Church in Prentiss, Miss., Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The church and much of its south Prentiss neighborhood was heavily damaged by a tornado Sunday, one of several that swept the state, causing a number of deaths. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — How do you know a devastated area is getting relief? Usually, you see evidence through poignant images of volunteers holding the hands of those who were impacted, and complete strangers coming together in large groups to help heal a community. For now, however, relief looks a bit different. 

The coronavirus pandemic is complicating relief work after storms killed more than 30 people across the South. 

Baptist volunteers aren’t holding the hands of people whose homes were wrecked by dozens of tornadoes, and the American Red Cross is lining up hotel rooms rather than mass shelters for homeless families to guard against spreading the virus. 

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves says the storms made it harder to stop the spread, and the virus is making it harder to deal with the tornado aftermath.

Preliminary assessments show more than two dozen twisters hit the region Sunday and Monday. 

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